A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Is Disney+ shedding film titles? ALSO: Plepler lands at Apple.
Always Be Watching is written by Dan Barrett who has landed at breakfast.
This week NBC debuts a musical comedy series called Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Critic Alan Sepinwall suggests that the new show is part of an interesting trend this year with US broadcast networks actually trying again after years of having, well, given up:
And then, sometime around when Netflix and Amazon opened up a second front in this war for the nation’s (and the globe’s) eyeballs, the old-fashioned networks more or less gave up. They still provide a place for reliably warm and funny comedies like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Bob’s Burgers. And on very rare occasions, something smart and wholly new like The Good Place will emerge on a broadcaster, as if by accident(*). But for the most part, the people who run the Big Four have seemingly decided that viewers who want anything even slightly complex will look for that on cable or streaming, and that they had best lean on easily-digestible procedural and/or franchise dramas that won’t challenge viewers any more than they seem to have challenged their creators.
So, where does Zoey fit into the new TV landscape?
It’s a whimsical high concept, the kind which was a network TV staple forever and ever. See also CBS’ Joan of Arcadia(*), where a teenage girl had weekly conversations with God; or Fox’s Wonderfalls, where a directionless young woman began getting ordered around by the tchotchkes in the souvenir shop where she worked; or ABC’s Eli Stone, which also took place in San Francisco and also had a hero who had musical visions. Not quite the dominant format for a medium that never met a cop, doctor, or lawyer drama it didn’t like, it was nonetheless common enough that Zoey wouldn’t have seemed that unusual 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. On the other hand, it would have felt like manna from heaven a year or two ago: a sign that someone, somewhere in Network Land wasn’t content with endless variations on the same two or three franchises.
When AT&T bought Warner Bros, it made multiple executive changes. Not happy with the direction of where his job would be headed, HBO exec Richard Plepler walked out the door. Plepler is considered the guy that kept HBO looking and feeling like, well, HBO. So wherever Plepler landed in his next gig was always going to be something the industry paid attention to. Now we have confirmation of what he’ll be doing: Richard Plepler is joining Apple as an independent producer.
In a recently signed five-year deal, Mr. Plepler’s new company, Eden Productions, will make television series, documentaries and feature films exclusively for Apple TV Plus, the streaming platform that started in November. The arrangement gives Mr. Plepler a significant role in an expanding streaming universe soon to include HBO Max, a supersize platform that has been a focus of his former corporate home since he departed in February after having lost some of his autonomy.
Abrams' alleged cut, running three hours and two minutes long, featured more scenes of Rey and Kylo having sorely needed "quiet moments of reflection." Also: former Star Wars actors Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, and Samuel L. Jackson appearing as Force ghosts to help Rey, more impactful scenes with Finn and Rose, and much more. We were also apparently supposed to discover that Jannah is Lando Calrissian's daughter.